Mennonite Culture Ripe for Satire


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Depositphotos / The Citizen

Writer Andrew J. Bergman didn’t set out to launch a website, much less a wildly popular one that would attract so much attention that over 20,000 people follow it on social media. 

“[It] kind of started by accident,” he says. “I wrote one satirical post about Steinbach city council moving the city to the Mennonite Heritage Village, which I posted on my blog.” 

Bergman was surprised at how many people wound up reading that post, but felt that he had a lot more he could write on the topic of Mennonite culture. And so, in May 2016, he launched a website: The Daily Bonnet.

The Daily Bonnet is described as a “trusted source for Mennonite satire.” It joins the ranks of satirical news sources such as the United States’ The Onion and Canada’s The Beaverton, and religious satire sites like The Babylon Bee, which posts its own comic spin on Christian news, and Eye of the Tiber, which pokes fun at Catholicism.

With articles such as “Generous Mennonite Couple Sends Used Teabags to Missionaries” and “Visitor to Mennonite Church Blinded By All the Blond Hair,” The Daily Bonnet features humorous stories about various aspects of Mennonite culture. Articles are divided into categories such as “Mennonite Life,” “Church,” and “The Outside World.”

It’s not just for the laughs, of course; the stories all start with a grain of truth.

“There is definitely social commentary along with it,” Bergman says. “The purpose of satire is to critique or point out flaws in society using sarcasm and exaggeration. Of course, this usually ends up being funny, but there is often a point being made.” 

An article posted on November 24, 2017 is titled “Mennonite Church Appoints Man to Lead Women’s Ministry,” for example. On the day of last year’s inaugural Steinbach Pride march, an article called “Comprehensive List of Steinbach Politicians Scheduled to Attend Pride March Today” appeared. It was largely blank.

However, Bergman—a Mennonite himself—says that the articles are written with equal parts fondness and critique.

“There are funny things about Mennonites. We have our quirks. I think the website is as much a celebration of those things as it is a criticism, and I think that’s why people like it. It’s not usually harsh and biting satire. It’s light-hearted.”

Of course, the danger of satire, even kind-hearted satire, is that readers aren’t always clear on the fact that Daily Bonnet articles aren’t serious news. Once in a while, people react with shock and outrage rather than laughter.

“There was one Daily Bonnet article about Mennonite bikers clashing with Hell’s Angels at Sturgis that was ‘fact-checked’ by,” says Bergman. “They pointed out that the article was not true, but they also said it should have been obvious to people the article was satire.”

Of course, sometimes readers mistake satirical articles for factual ones not out of cluelessness, but rather out of wishful thinking. The September 22 piece entitled “Tim Hortons Introduces Full Line of Yerba Products”? Sadly fiction. Oba na!

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